When I was a child we ran free around endless wheat fields.
Once spring rolled in, the grass grew tall, soft and vibrant – this pure green color that is hard to describe. I miss how soft it was (grass in Florida itches!). Red poppies grew wild alongside this wheat grass. Weightless… long and thin stems that the wind would blow violently from side to side.
Every May I think of the red poppies. I call my dad and ask him, “have they bloomed yet?”
During our trip to Dordogne last year, we dined at Cabanoix – a small restaurant with a modern-French twist. I actually cannot wait to go back there this year. Next to the restaurant, there is a small épicerie where they carry the most fragrant tea blends (I still love my strawberry hibiscus tea), salts, spices, riz au lait mixes, and floral sugars.
I remember seeing the bag of sucre coquelicot (poppy flower sugar) and I nearly fell on the floor. I grabbed my bag and ran to the cashier afraid everyone else would raid the counters.
Days before, I had tasted the most delicious coquelicot ice cream at the Jardin de Marqueyssac. The memory of the subtle, floral sweetness was fresh on my mind.
I had big plans for this sucre coquelicot.
Somehow, I waited until this spring to really start baking with the poppy flower sugar. Perhaps the conversations with my dad about the poppy fields ignited the curiosity once again.
I have been adding it to many recipes including arroz con leche that I served with poached rhubarb puree and berries.
Also a berry crumble with pistachios and crunchy millet. Just the perfect subtle scent of poppies in my kitchen.
There is an abundance of rhubarb in my kitchen these days.
I made this dairy-free roasted rhubarb sherbet that I also flavored with poppy flower sugar and vanilla bean. It’s a slight variation of a roasted strawberry sherbet recipe that you can find in my book. It is actually one of my favorite recipes from the book and what can I say, my family loves it too. I hope you try it even without the poppy flower sugar.
So now I continue to dream of the poppies in my Basque Country.
Tell me, do you have poppy fields around you? If so, please go out and admire them for me – even if the wind makes them hard to photograph.
1 pound (450 g) rhubarb stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (85 g) poppy flower sugar or natural cane sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. In a roasting pan, toss together the rhubarb, 3 tablespoons (35 g) poppy flower sugar, and vanilla bean and its seeds. Bake for 30 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar makes a syrup. Remove the vanilla bean. Puree the rhubarb in the food processor and let it cool.
In the meantime, combine the rest of the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool completely.
Whisk together the rhubarb puree, simple syrup, coconut milk, and sea salt. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours and churn in your ice cream machine according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sherbet to a freezer-safe container and freeze until hard. Before serving, remove the sherbet from the freezer and let it come to temperature for 15 minutes.